Giolito ends 1st half strong as Sox eye 2nd-half reset

July 9th, 2023

CHICAGO -- There are a number of things White Sox starter will be doing during the four-day All-Star break, beginning after a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Cardinals Sunday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field. 

Worrying about what his immediate future holds will not be on that list.

“I’m going to enjoy this break,” said Giolito after allowing two runs on two hits and three walks over seven innings in the first-half finale. “Get away from the game a little bit and then whatever happens, happens. I made it clear I want to be here.”

Giolito closed out a stellar first half in top-of-the-rotation fashion, as he didn’t allow a hit until the fourth when Willson Contreras connected on a changeup at the top of the zone for a two-run home run. Giolito struck out five across his 90 pitches.

Over 19 starts and 112 1/3 innings, Giolito features a 3.45 ERA with 117 strikeouts and a .223 opponents’ batting average. He is 3-1 with a 2.76 ERA and 53 strikeouts over 49 innings during his last eight starts and 3-2 with a 2.44 ERA and 62 strikeouts over 62 2/3 innings in 10 home starts this season.

Take away seven runs allowed in four innings at Pittsburgh on April 7 and four runs allowed over 3 2/3 innings at Detroit on May 25, and Giolito is probably an All-Star.

“Two starts I wish I could throw away because then I probably would have way better numbers, but that’s how it works,” Giolito said. “I had a couple of blow-up ones, but other than that, it’s the consistency I’ve been searching for throughout my career going deep into games, throwing quality starts. I would like to continue that in the second [half].”

“He's tremendous. He pitched like an ace,” White Sox manager Pedro Grifol said. “He's always prepared. He loves to compete. He's pitching, which is the most important thing for me. There's no worrying about velocity. There's not even a talk about it. He's just pitching and getting people out, so it's a tremendous first half."

But here’s the sticking point for Giolito: He’s leading a rotation for a team that is definitely not tremendous. In fact, Chicago’s 38-54 mark represents a low-water mark for the season. When underachieving teams such as the White Sox hit these depths, sitting eight games behind the Guardians in the American League Central and 7 1/2 behind the Twins, they often trade away a free-agent-to-be after ‘23 and a top talent such as Giolito to reinforce the future.

Sunday’s trip to the mound could have been Giolito’s last at Guaranteed Rate, with the White Sox opening the second half on a nine-game road trip and not returning until July 25 against the Cubs. The Trade Deadline is Aug. 1, but in preparing for his start as he has done all season, Giolito didn’t think about such a factor.

“I just want to be in the present. I can’t think like that,” Giolito said. “That kind of thinking is what will get me all messed up. Stay with the same mindset I’ve had.

“Focus on having a consistent daily routine. I can look at what writers are saying, I can look at what fans are saying away from the field. But when it comes time to go to work, I go to work and block out everything else. When it’s time to pitch, I expect myself to perform at a very high level.”

Can the White Sox somehow enact a second-half push, despite being tied for the most extra-innings losses and most losses in walk-off fashion in the Majors? It seems more unlikely a significant roster reshaping will take place before they make up 16 games on .500, but the faith is still there ahead of this All-Star break reset.

“Even though it’s four days, you come back refreshed and ready to go,” Grifol said. “We’ve got a ton of baseball left. We’ve just got to find a way to close these games out. We’ve lost a ton of these games. These games hurt.”

“It’s been rough,” Giolito said. “Haven’t been able to really fire on all cylinders. A lot of close losses, which hurt. But I have faith that with a few adjustments, we can make a good run in the second half. We’d have to get really hot. That’s what it would take. … Confidence and faith are there. It’s just a matter of executing and doing it, which we haven’t done.”